Escape the Money Spending Black Hole

Especially in this economy, everyone is trying to save more money. I, myself, spend time scouring the internet to figure out how to keep our spending to a minimum. We live off one income and use the other for savings or paying off debt, but I am always trying to figure out how to do better. Just yesterday, I figured out how to add an extra $350 to what we pay to loans each month. I have compiled a list of tips and tricks that I am either eager to start trying or have already worked for me.

Basics:
1. Make a budget and log where all of your money goes. The more you see it, the less you spend.
2. Be honest about your spending habits. The only way to change your spending habits is to have an accurate picture of what they look like now.
3. Have your employer put a portion of your paycheck into your savings account automatically. If you don’t have it, you don’t spend it.
4. Tell the people you know what your money goals are. You don’t have to be specific, but tell your family and friends that you would like to save more money and you will feel more obligated to actually do so.
5. Pay off loans early starting with the highest interest rate. We put twice as much money towards loans than the minimum per month, which we estimate will save us about $30,000 on interest over the course of 10 years just for student loans!

Utilities:
6. Cut the cable cord. Huluplus and Netflix only costs $7.99 per month each compared to $30 or more for cable. We also have a cable to connect my computer to our tv to watch some shows that are for free on the network sites.
7. Get rid of the landline. Most people these days use cellphones instead. Don’t double pay for a service you already can use.
8. Save money on your cellphone data by being aware of where there is free wifi. I set my phone to only automatically download emails when I am on wifi and take advantage of walking past coffee shops. I can even go on wifi when I am shopping at Target!
9. Unplug the appliances you aren’t currently using. In our kitchen, we have several small appliances because we love to cook, but we only plug them in when we are using them. It takes about 5 seconds to plug in the toaster or mixer before we use them, which are the only appliances we even keep on the counter. Bonus, more counter space for cooking.
10. Turn off the AC. It is the middle of summer and we have yet to use our AC. Instead, we keep the blinds closed and open the windows at night when the weather is a little cooler. It is also possible to hang a wet towel in front of an open window to cool off the room when the breeze blows through. (We are in Wisconsin so I know this trick doesn’t work as well for my southern friends.)
11. Clean your filters! People have reported saving up to $300 on cooling and heating costs when they clean the filter for their units. It also pays to have them tuned up at least once every other year.

Entertainment:
12. Use the library as a source of entertainment. Many libraries now have ebook lending programs so you can get new books directly to your kindle, phone, or computer.
13. Rent instead of buy. We don’t buy movies anymore. DVDs can be expensive and we don’t watch the movies often enough to make it worth the cost. If you have kids, this might be a different story. Instead, we get movies from Redbox or on Huluplus for a fraction of the cost.
14. Set up book and movie exchanges in your area. If you do decide to buy, take advantage of online exchanges or set up ones in your area using websites like meetup.
15. Take advantage of the free activities in your area. Look into your city’s chamber of commerce website for listings of activities going on. Libraries also have a lot of free events.
16. If you really need to see a movie in theaters, take advantage of matinees and cheap movie nights. In our area, Marcus theaters has $5 movie Tuesdays.
17. Sign up for free rewards programs. I use an envelope to keep track of all of our rewards cards and often they will send you coupons for free or deeply discounted items. Just make sure that you don’t let these tempt you to spend more. Only use it when you were planning to get that item anyway.
18. Cook at home. LD and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen together. We love being able to spend time together without spending much money. You need to eat anyways! It also works well as team building between you and your significant other (or friend or whatever).
19. Skip the bars. Meet up with friends in each other’s homes and bring a bottle of wine. Most places mark the price of the drinks up by at least 50%.

Groceries:
20. Make a meal plan. Plan all of your meals before you go to the store so you know what you need and avoid picking up expensive extras.
21. Even better, try to use the grocery circulars to match your meals to the deals of the week.
22. Even better, use the items already in your pantry to create the bulk of your meal plan.
23. After you make your meal plan, look into coupon sites to match what you are already buying to coupons available. Remember to look at the prices at the store, store brand items can often be cheaper than using a coupon on the name brand product.
24. Stockpile intelligently. Just because a bulk product is a bulk product doesn’t mean it is cheaper. Use the tags on the shelf or your calculator to figure out the cost per ounce on all options. If an item is on a good sale, consider buying extra so you have them for future use, but only if you can use what you buy before it expires!!!
25. Make your pantry staples. It takes very little time to make certain basics like pizza dough, pancake mix, and cake mix. There are recipes all over the internet for these items. We also make our own tortillas, bread, pie crusts, and pasta.
26. Fall in love with leftovers. I like to plan meals that are more than the two of use can eat and reheat them the next day. It often costs less to expand a meal than it does to get ingredients for a new one.
27. Plan $1 meals into your meal plans. We try to do meals that cost us $1 or less for the two of us to eat that are still nutritious. Some of our favorites include rice and beans, homemade potato gnocchi, and breakfast for dinner (i.e. banana pancakes).
28. Buy fresh foods at the farmer’s market when possible. We often can get a huge head of romaine lettuce for a $1 at our farmer’s market and then we can use proteins and other vegetables to make several meals that are actually filling.
29. Learn to can. We got nectarines on a great sale recently and made our own jam. We also plan to use our new canning supplies (pressure canner) to make lots of vegetable broth while fresh vegetables are in season. Please be sure to follow canning guidelines correctly in order to ensure food safety.
30. Invest in an extra freezer. Many food items freeze well allowing you to buy more when they are on a good sale for later use. It is also helpful with preparing some meals early and then can be heated up when you are busy during the week.
31. Take advantage of store savings programs. For example, we like to shop at Target for a lot of items and they have an app called Cartwheel. If you haven’t seen it before, take a look. I often get items at a minimum of 5% off before sales or coupons. It might not seem like much, but it does add up.
32. Bring your own bags. Not only does bringing your own bags help the environment, but many stores give you a 5 to 10 cent discount per bag. Over time, it adds up.

Household:
33. Consider making your own cleaning products. Many can be made using simple and safe products such as vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. I have written about many uses for vinegar before.
34. Make your own dishwasher and laundry detergent.
35. Decorate your home using using diy crafts. Office supply stores can often print large photos (3’x4′) for less than $5. You can then mount them on painted plywood or canvas.
36. Stay organized. I can’t tell you how often I buy something thinking we were out only to find enough to last us another 6 months.
37. Keep dogs and children entertained with items around the house. It is amazing how easy it is to make a puzzle for Tasha out of tennis balls and a muffin tin, or just hiding treats around the house. For less powerful chewers, a lot of dogs love water bottles wrapped in old towels or tee shirts.

Fitness:
38. Drop the gym membership and get creative with what is available in the area. I often run for fitness or go to a local park and do plyo or yoga. Using your surroundings in creative ways also reduces the boredom in fitness routines.
39. Use objects around the house for weights. You can fill up water jugs or use your dog. Tasha is about 20 pounds and I sometimes use her for two handed presses. The fact that she is not easy to grip makes me work a little harder. Don’t do this if you have a poorly trained dog!
40. Garden. The squatting, lifting, and digging can make an excellent workout for little cost. Bonus, if you make a vegetable garden you can save on food costs.

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About Danielle Beranek

Life can get away from you when being young, married, and still fairly fresh out of college. Taking on a pet, student loans, going back to school, and soon a new house is enough to leave ones head spinning. For me, life is crazy, but only on the outside.
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One Response to Escape the Money Spending Black Hole

  1. Pingback: Anyone Can Become a Homeowner | Crazy on the Outside

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